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Libya: helping identify the dead

14-09-2011 News Release 11/189

Tripoli/Geneva (ICRC) – As mass graves are being discovered on a weekly basis, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is striving to bring answers to grief-stricken families of people who have gone missing and to ensure that any human remains uncovered are properly handled. Over the past weeks and months, hundreds of families have reported the disappearance of their loved ones in Libya.

"This week we dispatched two forensic experts to the field to support our colleagues already involved in the management of human remains," said Carole Pittet, an ICRC staff member in Tripoli. "The experts will also be advising the Libyan Red Crescent, local councils, health and religious authorities and other partners."

"The newly established National Council for the Missing quickly turned to us for technical support," she added. "There have been reports of improvised exhumations, which carry the risk that remains could be mishandled. Important information needed for proper identification of the dead could be lost." It is particularly important to preserve any available proof of identity when no family member has come forward to claim or identify a set of remains.

The ICRC has helped to ensure that the remains of 125 people found at 12 different sites in and around Tripoli have been handled properly. It has also provided support for the recovery of the remains of 34 people in Al Qala'a, in the Nefusa mountains.

The ICRC is not involved in collecting evidence that could be used in any legal proceedings.

For further information, please contact:
Soaade Messoudi, ICRC Tripoli, tel: +881 622 435 156 or +218 913 066 198
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Benghazi, tel: +870 772 390 124 ext. 250 or +218 9 923 304 560
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 50 or +41 22 730 20 11